ROME, Ga. — A clearly energized capacity crowd turned out Saturday to watch the first ever Berry College football team take the field.
The raucous crowd gave the historic evening an aura of a Division I showdown, not a Division III matchup. Fans remained enthused throughout the game, even as the visiting Scots from Maryville College marched down the field on six different scoring drives, posting a 37-0 win.
Rome’s historic Barron Stadium was electric as fans showed up hours before the Vikings took the field. Fans donned plastic Viking helmets, blue body paint and temporary tattoos to show their spirit for an evening 111 years in the making.
“It was a great feeling for the first game,” Berry Coach Tony Kunczewski said in a brief on-field interview following the game.”
“Hopefully our guys took it all in tonight too; I probably didn’t do a good job taking it all in,” he added. “But, every once in a while, I caught myself looking up at the crowd — what a tremendous atmosphere here. I just can’t say enough about the folks at Berry and about the folks in Rome.”
In a post-game huddle with players, Kunczewski told the team to remember the moment. They won’t soon see another one like it.
“I told our guys never take this for granted, the experience that you had out here, because it was awesome,” said Kunczewski, who helped launch the football program at LaGrange College before being named head coach at Berry.
Thirty minutes before kickoff, Berry fans had already filled the home grandstand. Fans then filled the remaining half- to two-thirds of the visitor’s bleachers before lining the track around the field.
Every “first” brought with it a roar from the Berry faithful — from the time the Viking Drumline started dispensing rhythms to the moment the cheerleaders started their routines to the first play from scrimmage. The crowd almost went ballistic as Berry nearly scored its first points on a fourth and one pass from the Scots’ 15 yard line early in the second quarter; the pass instead fell incomplete.
Berry’s first offensive play was a two-yard pass from freshman quarterback Adam Sandin, who ended up completing 13 of 24 for 123 yards. Freshman quarterback Sandon Mims entered the game late and completed all four of his passes for a total of 41 yards.
Anthony Batey emerged as a bright spot for the Vikings on defense. The freshman linebacker led the team with a total of 15 tackles.
Berry did have success at times moving the ball, but repeatedly came up empty. They nearly put points on the board during a late fourth-quarter red zone drive, but fell short and turned the ball over on downs.
For the crowd, the lack of points for the Vikings didn’t dampen spirits. Throughout the evening, the action on the field almost seemed to take a back seat to the historic nature of the day.
Bob Webb and Wallace Lloyd, Berry College graduates from the 1940s, were among the fans in attendance. Despite a 21-0 deficit just before half, the two seemed excited about the program’s future.
“They’ve got to have a starting point,” Lloyd said. “They’ll improve.”
Added Webb: “I think they’ve tried very hard. They will be a team (to watch) later on.”
Berry takes on the JV squad of LaGrange college next Sunday in Rome, then heads to Macon on Sept. 21 to battle Mercer University.
“We’re just going to keep on playing hard,” Kunczewski said. “We’re going to take it one game at a time. I just love the effort. Because often times when you look up at the scoreboard — you can start to relax and say, ‘we have no shot at this.’ But, the thing that I was most encouraged about with our guys is there was no quit.”
- The referee used a 1902 Silver Morgan Dollar for the coin toss in honor of Berry’s 1902 founding.
- Berry punter Mitchell Blanchard, a freshman, had a strong evening, punting seven times for an average of 40.4 yards per punt.
- The addition of football at Berry is particularly interesting considering a rumor persisted for years that the school’s founder, Martha Berry, stipulated in her will that football was never to be played at the school.
- However, according to school officials, Berry did not leave such instructions in her will, but in a 1925 letter did write, “football is not to be played at Berry.”
- Berry will play the next three home games at the Darlington School in
Rome before returning to Barron Stadium for its season finale Nov. 9
against Sewanee: The University of the South.